Re: Uploads and betrayal

Ken Clements (
Wed, 01 Dec 1999 23:42:37 -0800 wrote:

> I think that evolution is a conservative process (or maybe
> semi-conservative), where change usually only occurs in small increments
> unless the change is highly adaptive. Most changes are not very adaptive,
> and are usually either neutral or deleterious. Society works this way as
> well as biology. Unless there is a clear advantage to the changes that are
> coming (and there may be), then change will continue to be slow (likely in
> most areas). Also, I think another reason that organisms and institutions
> tend to conserve their structure is that although a change in isolation may
> be beneficial, it may lead to other changes that are overall deleterious.
> The changes not only have to be qualitatively better, but have to mesh in
> with the rest of the structure that is not changing. Further, making many
> changes at once can sometimes be deleterious because of unforeseen
> interactions between those changes; they may not "hang together" as well as
> the previous structure. I still believe that radical changes can occur, and
> can be beneficial, but it is more the exception than the rule.

As far as humans (and what comes next) are concerned Darwinian evolution is over (unless, of course, we screw up and blow life back to simple organisms). We are switching to directed evolution (somewhat like Lamarckian, but even faster because of the self selection process). In _Out of Control_, Kevin Kelly has a great section on this in which he relates the work of two Bellcore scientists, Ackley and Littman who compared Darwinian to Lamarckian evolution in simulations that attempted to solve problems by genetic algorithms:

There is a vast space of different kinds of evolution ahead of us. Darwin did a good job explaining how we got here, but gives us little to predict the future.

> This is quite possible in some cases. Again, for the reasons above I think
> it unlikely that were this the case that everyone would embrace this
> approach. The disintergrating pioneers of the new ways would be a strong
> warning to the masses of stragglers.

Their identities may be disintegrating, but their physical forms may be morphing into Powers that others may either envy, or feel they must keep up with.

> We do have the ability right now to, "Want what you want." It is difficult
> for most people, and takes a lot of reinforcement, but it is possible to
> remodel your own desires. What future changes will do is make the way we do
> this much easier, faster, and more precise. This will open the way to
> radical changes by the majority of society. However, I suspect most people
> don't want to select what they want radically, but would rather make small
> adjustments to their desires, to get them to work together more efficiently.
> We are unlikely to purposely make major changes to our identity (accidents
> and exceptions will occur). If I may use some old psychological terms, I
> feel that our ability to change our desires relatively quickly and with less
> backsliding may lead to the ascendancy of the superego over the id and even
> the ego. Of course, this is only so long as the the choice to change wants,
> motivations, and desires remains an individual choice. If some are able to
> force changes on a large number of people, then all bets are off.

The *easy* ability to change what you want is one of the slickest slippery slopes I can think of. The *easy* ability to change what the general population wants (super wet dream of all advertising firms) is one of those scary aspects of coming times we will have to deal with.

> I agree that anything that relies on limitations to preserve their integrity
> will in trouble when limitations become academic. I personally have never
> defined myself by my limitations, and thus feel comfortable with their
> eventual removal. However, I happen to by-and-large want what I want, so I
> am unlikely to change most of my core desires, motivations, and drives. I
> may get rid of some of the more autonomic ones should they no longer be
> necessary, such as hunger, thirst, etc., but curiosity, compassion, loyalty
> are likely to be with me a long, long, long time.
> Glen Finney

Dear Glen,

If only the vast majority of the world had your good wants, or at least wanted to have those wants, my heart would soar like an eagle.